LANDMARK DESIGNATION REPORT
Roanoke Building and Tower
(Originally Lumber Exchange Building)
11 South LaSalle Street
Submitted to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in August 2007
CITY OF CHICAGO
Richard M. Daley, Mayor
Department of Planning and Development
Images 1-4: (cover) Historic image of the Roanoke Building & Tower featuring the aerial
beacon; Terra cotta details on the Roanoke Building & Tower. Image 5-6: (above) Picture
of the Roanoke Building and Tower located at the corner of LaSalle and Madison;
(opposite page) map of Chicago's Loop highlighting the location of the Roanoke Build-
The commission on Chicago Landmarks, whose nine members are appointed by the
Mayor and City Council, was established in 1968 by city ordinance. It is responsible for
recommending to the City Council that individual buildings, sites, objects, or districts
should be designated as Chicago landmarks, which protects them by law. The
commission is staffed by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, 33 N.
LaSalle St., Room 1600, Chicago, IL 60602; (312-744-3200) phone; (312-744-2958) TTY;
(312-744-9140) fax; web site, http:www.cityofchicago.org/landmarks.
This Preliminary Summary of Information is subject to possible revision and amendment
during the designation proceedings. Only language contained within the City Council's
final landmark designation ordinance should be regarded as final.
Roanoke Building and Tower
(Originally Lumber Exchange Building)
11 S. LaSalle Street
1915 (original sixteen-story building)
1922 (additional five stories)
1925 (thirty-six-story adjacent tower)
Holabird & Roche (1915, 1922)
Rebori, Wentworth, Dewey & McCormick, with
Holabird & Roche (1925)
The Roanoke Building and Tower is a significant early twentieth-century commercial
building located in Chicago*! historic LaSalle Street financial district With intricate,
distinctive and unusual detailing, the brown terra-cotta-clad, Portuguese Gothic-style
building was built in three stages. It was originally built as the sixteen-story, 200-foot-
tall Lumber Exchange Building in 1 915. In 1 922 five stories were added after building
height restrictions on downtown Chicago buildings were eased, and the building was
rechristened the Roanoke Building. Finally, in 1925, a thirty-six-story tower was added
to the building, taking advantage of the City's first zoning ordinance which allowed
soaring towers in Chicago's Loop.
The building is a striking example of how early twentieth-century downtown Chicago
buildings evolved in response to changing zoning codes. The building is also singularly
significant for its distinctive terra-cotta ornamentation and detailing, produced by one of
the City's leading architectural firats, Hoisted & Roche, aad one of the City's more
idiosyncratic architects, Andrew Rebori.
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Images 7-1 1 : (clockwise from
lower left) A historic view of the
McCormick Reaper Factory in
Chicago (The Roanoke Building
& Tower was built by the
McCormick family as a real-
estate investment); An order
blank from 1851 shows a line
drawing of the McCormick
reaper; a view of a McCormick
harvester and binder at work in
1876; Leander McCormick, the
vice-president of the McCor-
mick Reaper Works and an im-
portant figure in the creation of
the McCormick family's real-
estate holdings; a group photo-
graph of three generations of
McCormicks (Robert Hall
McCormick, Robert Hall McCor-
mick III, and Robert Hall McCor-
On January 17, 1914, the Leander McCormick Estate,
managed by McCormick's son Robot, announced pints for a
Loop skyscraper. Leander James McCormick was a noted
Chicago businessman, son of Robert McCormick who
invented the mechanical reaper and brother to Cyrus
McCormick who received the patent. Shortly after Robert's
death in 1846, Leander McCormick joined his brothers to
create the McCormick Harvesting Machine. By the 1 870s the
McCormicks were one of the wealthiest families in the United
In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed much of the
McCormick Reaper Works on the north bank of the Chicago
River, but the McCormicks, under Leander's direction,
quickly rebuilt and recovered. Leander stayed active in the
management of the business until 1889 when he retired and
sold his shares to his nephew, Cyrus H. McCormick, Jr. After
retiring from the business, Leander then invested heavily in
real estate. At the time of his death on February 20, 1900, he
had extensive holdings in downtown Chicago. After his
death, the estate continued to manage and develop real estate.
In 1915, the site of the Roanoke Building and Tower was
partially occupied by a much-earlier, smaller building the
seven-story Roanoke Building built in 1872 in the aftermath
of the Chicago Fire. The LaSalle Street district was then, as
now, the center of the city's financial district. Starting before
the Chicago Fire, and intensifying in the years after, LaSalle
Street became the nexus of business, finance, and banking for
rapidly-growing Chicago. Originally redeveloped with five-
to seven-story buildings after the Fire, these smaller buildings
were being torn down all along LaSalle for taller buildings
that more intensively utilized the street's premiere location
and prestige. For example, just to the south of the proposed
Lumber Exchange Building site was the thirteen-story Central
YMCA, designed by Jenney & Mundie and built in 1893.
The building was the result of a concerted effort by Chicago's
mercantile elite, including the McCormick family, to develop
the YMCA as a more prominent social agency amidst the
burgeoning population. Further south on the block were two
other buildings by Jenney & Mundie: the 1902 twelve-story
National Life building and the 1 894 fourteen-story New York
Life building (designated a Chicago Landmark in 2006).
The Lumber Exchange Building was a speculative office
building with ground-floor commercial uses. It was the result
of a long-standing agreement between the Lumberman's
SULR ci inn J r
B • flFli
Images 12-14: (top-
bottom) The earlier
known as the Roa-
noke Building) on
the southeast cor-
ner of LaSalle &
Madison in 1875; a
view of the and
YMCA building, by
Jenny & Mundie
adjacent to the
& Tower; nearby is
the New York Life
Building, also de-
signed by Jenny &
Mundie and lo-
cated at LaSalle
Association of Chicago and the McCormick estate. Lumber, along with grain and
meatpacking, was one of the "big three" commodities of nineteenth-century Chicago
commerce. The Lumberman's Association of Chicago, as the name suggests, was the
trade association for the industry. In addition to the association's offices, the new
building was also intended to house the "Lumberman's Club," then located across the
street from the Great Northern Hotel at Dearborn and Jackson Streets. The notion of an
"exchange" building was that vendors and sales representatives from the industry, often
one- and two-person offices, could co-locate into a single building. Typically, such
buildings featured a double-loaded corridor with interconnecting doors which would
allow flexible office configurations. Floors and offices not taken by lumber-related
businesses were leased for general office use.
The architects for the new building were Holabird & Roche. This longstanding firm had
been founded in 1881 by William Holabird and Martin Roche, who met while working
in the architectural office of William Le Baron Jenney — the so-called "father of the
skyscraper." A native of New York, Holabird came to Chicago in 1875. Roche was
raised in Chicago and was educated at the Armour Institute of Technology.
The firm was one of the city's most prolific at the turn of the century. Among its early
designs were the Tacoma Building (1889; NE corner of Madison and LaSalle Streets,
demolished), Old Colony Building (1893-94; 407 S. Dearborn Street), Marquette
Building (1891-95; 140 S. Dearborn Street) , Chicago Tribune Building (1901-02; 7 S.
Dearborn Street, demolished), Chicago Savings Bank (1903-04; 7 W. Madison Street),
the McCormick Building (1908-12; 332 S. Michigan Avenue) and the Cook County
Courthouse-City Hall (1904-10; bounded by Randolph, Clark, Washington and LaSalle
Image 15: A photo
of Holabird &
as it originally was
built as a 16-story
The design of the sixteen-story steel-frame and terra-cotta building is attributed to the
younger architects of the firm, including William Holabird's son, John Holabird, and
John Root, son of John Root Sr. of the rival firm, Burnham and Root. Trained at the
Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, both men were more interested in ornamentation than
their elders, and as a result, the 1915 building displays elegant ornamentation of an
unusual nature. Rather than the more commonly used classical details, it is replete with
"grotesques" and other figures reminiscent of the Gothic and early Romanesque styles.
Critic Russell Whitehead recalled John Root, Jr. telling the story that for this building
the designers "operated on the . . . principle that the man who could find the rarest book
would do the most distinctive job. Root found a wonderful and little known book on
Portuguese Gothic and had a circus with it."
In form, the original Lumber Exchange Building was a closed "L," roughly 65 foot
deep, with facades of 136 feet in length along LaSalle Street and 102 feet along
Madison Street. The building's 200-feet-high facade facade was the maximum allowed
at the time by the City of Chicago. The building was entered off the second
southernmost bay of LaSalle Street and featured a marble lobby with eight elevators. At
the southwest corner was a small store in the first bay. North of the lobby were four
larger retail spaces. Upper-floor elevator lobbies were tasteful yet restrained. The
corridors were typical of the era with marble walls, terrazzo floors, interior windows/
transoms, wood trim, and brass fixtures. The offices were primarily located on the
exterior street-side walls to provide ample light. Functional spaces, such as restrooms,
were placed on the inside walls of the L-shaped building.
Demolition of the existing building on the site was scheduled for early summer. Notices
to the tenants asked them to vacate on May 1 . In 1914 newspapers reported the new
building construction saying, "4,000 tons of iron let on Lumber Exchange building . . .
The exterior will be brick and terra-cotta with marble trim — a finish similar to the
McCormick building and cost 1,250,000 when completed." A ring of lights above the
first floor storefronts illuminated the building on both street elevations.
Completed in the spring of 1915 at a cost of $1.3 million, the Lumber Exchange
Building had difficulties leasing up with lumber enterprises. But the building was
quickly filled with a variety of occupants ranging from financial businesses to lawyers
to retail companies' corporate headquarters. By the time the building opened, it was
60% leased. The largest tenant was the Greenebaum and Sons Bank and Trust,
occupying the ground floor at the northwest corner of the building and five upper floors.
Within five years of the completion of the original Lumber Exchange Building, in 1920,
the City of Chicago raised the height limit on downtown buildings from 200 feet to 264
feet. With rapid growth, low vacancy and soaring rents creating a "bullish" market for
LaSalle Street office space, the McCormick Estate decided to add five stories to the
Lumber Exchange Building at a cost of $703,500 and to rename the building "The
The architects for the addition were again Holabird & Roche. The added floors required
the removal of elaborate and intricate terra-cotta decoration above the sixteenth floor
window that included dramatic semi-circular blind arches with "pantera" over each
window and foliated scrollwork at the cornice. The new floors maintained the vertical
Image 16: The
& Tower was ex-
panded twice, first
in 1922 with the
addition of five
floors atop the
building, then in
1925 with the ad-
dition of an adja-
rhythm of the bays but in composition asserted a more tripartite "base-shaft-capital"
organization. The new design also simplified the entry. At the same time, though more
restrained, the new floors continued the Portuguese Gothic-style decoration and even
reused some existing decoration for the new cornice.
Again, changing land-use regulations brought change to the building. In 1923, the City
passed its first comprehensive zoning law, attempting to regulate both vertical and
horizontal sprawl. The law replaced the rigid height limit with a new zoning formula
that allowed towers above the twenty-second story of a building, provided that they did
not occupy more than one-fourth of the area of the building lot and that tower space was
not more than one-sixth of the entire building.
With the soaring real estate market, the zoning change prompted Robert McCormick, on
behalf of his father's estate, to acquire the lot adjacent to and to the east of the Roanoke
Building. The lot was small just forty feet along Madison Street and ninety feet deep.
On the lot was the Bandbox Movie Theater, which was soon after demolished. On this
small lot, McCormick would capitalize on the new zoning code by building a tower
addition to the Roanoke, using the existing building's floor-to-area ratio to justify the
For the project, McCormick again used the architectural firm of Holabird & Roche. The
firm's reputation had remained steady since they designed the Lumber Exchange in
1913. However, William Holabird died in July, 1923 and with Martin Roche in his
seventh decade, the firm was transitioning to a younger generation of principals.
McCormick also involved Andrew Rebori in the project, a Chicago architect who over
the years would develop a reputation for imaginative architecture. At the time, the
thirty-seven-year-old Rebori had considerable professional training, including studies at
the Ecole de Beaux- Arts and associations with Cass Gilbert. In 1910 he moved from
New York to Chicago and usually worked independently until 1921, when he joined
with two well-connected Chicago architects, John Wentworth and Albert Dewey. A
fourth partner in the firm was Leander J. McCormick, grandson of Robert McCormick,
who brought connections to the McCormick real estate holdings.
The Roanoke Building Tower was Rebori's first office building. It is difficult to
determine Rebori's role in the collaboration, but a comparison of the Roanoke Tower to
another Rebori design of the time, the Michigan Avenue Tower, suggests that Rebori
was an active participant.
The Roanoke Tower is extremely sympathetic to the original Lumber Exchange
Building design. On the northern facade it maintained the vertical and horizontal
articulation, fenestration, materials and largely continued the terra-cotta decoration
horizontally, though with subtle changes that added an element of Art Deco to the
assemblage. Internally, a second building entrance was installed at the easternmost bay
which led along a thin one-bay corridor to the elevator lobby. The upper floors were
now typically configured with an "L" shaped corridor connecting the two elevator
Images 17-19: (clockwise from
top left) 1928 birds eye view of
the Roanoke Tower; 1929 view
of the Roanoke Tower looming
over LaSalle Street.; four men
working on the radio tower/
aviation beacon atop the Roa-
noke Tower in 1928.
The most dramatic element of the addition is the tower itself, which rises above the
twenty-first story almost another 200 feet. This tower, which measured approximately
forty feet east and west and ninety feet deep, featured a central elevator and stair core
with offices spaces flanking. Capping the structure was a bell tower with four still-
extant bronze bells set to chime an original composition called "Samheim" (Norse for
"Tomorrow") every quarter hour. Upon completion, the thirty-seven story Roanoke
Tower was one of the City's tallest buildings, such that tenant Walter Greenebaum paid
for the installation of the city's first aviation beacon on the roof of the Roanoke Tower.
Images 20-21: (left) 1925 eleva-
tion of the Tower addition to the
Roanoke Building; Birds eye
view of the completed Roanoke
Architect: Holabird and Roche
In business since 1883, the firm of Holabird and Roche grew to be one of the most
successful and prolific architectural firms in Chicago. The firms' commission averaged
$6 million per year between 1 908 and 1911 reaching a peak of $ 1 3 million in 1 9 1 0. By
the time the Lumber Exchange Building was completed in 1915, the firm was well-
established and highly sought after. By this time, the firm was one of the nation's
leading firms with five to ten percent of the share of construction in the city. The firm
employed over one hundred draftsmen. Between 1912 and 1917, Holabird and Roche
surpassed the New York firm of McKim, Mead and White in size and commissions, but
were still behind the Chicago firm of Burnham and Company. By the 1920s, Holabird
and Roche surpassed the Burnham firm. The 1920s have been cited as one of the most
brilliant periods in the firm's history. In particular, the firm played a key role in the
development of the new setback-styled skyscrapers in Chicago and elsewhere in
The senior member of the firm was William Holabird. Born in 1 854 and a graduate of
West Point, Holabird began working as a draftsman for Jenney & Mundie in the years
immediately following the fire of 1 87 1 . Martin Roche was born in 1 853 in Cleveland
and arrived in Chicago as a child. He too worked for Jenney and Mundie and became
friends with Holabird. In 1880, the two left Jenny & Mundie with Ossian C. Simonds to
create an independent firm. Simonds withdrew from the firm three years later and the
name was changed to Holabird and Roche.
The partners did not achieve success immediately. Building in Chicago was almost at a
stand-still, and Roche turned to designing furniture and entering competitions in the
hope of winning cash prizes. In 1 885 they received their first commission-a two-story
retail and apartment building.
During the next few years new building methods were adopted in cities over the
country. In Chicago, the first example of steel-frame construction was the Home
Insurance building, called "the father of the sky-scraper" when completed in 1885. Two
years later Holabird & Roche developed an improved form of "skeleton construction" in
the 1887 twelve-story Tacoma Building, located at the northeast corner of LaSalle and
Madison Streets (the Roanoke Building would be located at the southeast comer). The
success of the Tacoma Building led to a continuing list of important works.
In 1913, William Holabird's twenty-seven-year-old son, John, came to work for the
firm. He graduated from West Point and attended Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Upon
joining the firm he was put to work on the Three Arts Club where he did stencil-work
for the wall decoration. He was joined at the firm by Ecole des Beaux- Arts classmate
John Root, son of John Wellborn Root, partner of Daniel Burnham. He left in 1917 to
serve in the military during the Great War and re-entered firm after his discharge in
With his father in failing health and the senior Roche disinclined to take full charge,
Holabird assumed leadership in the office and during the busy years of the 1920s.
During this time he proved his skill and ability in executing the numerous and varied
<¥ **% / t f >
Images 22-27: (clockwise from top left) 1910 photo of the architectural firm Holabird &
Roche; the firm designed numerous early Chicago skyscrapers, including the Tacoma
Building (demolished); firm partners William Holabird and Martin Roche; the firm also de-
signed the Classical Revival-style City Hall-County Building (a designated Chicago Land-
mark); the firm's south addition of the Monadnock Building (a designated Chicago Land-
commissions received by the firm. Major projects in Chicago included the new Palmer
House, and the Stevens Hotel (the largest of the entire firm's single buildings), the Daily
News Building, and the new Board of Trade Building.
In 1928, the firm was reorganized and renamed Holabird and Root. As the years passed
the firm continued to build on the reputation of its predecessor and establish itself as one
of the premier architectural firms in the city.
To date, the firm has many buildings designated as Chicago Landmarks, both
individually and within landmark districts, including, Monadock Building (53 W.
Jackson Boulevard; 1889-93); Old Colony Building (407 S. Dearborn Street; 1894);
Marquette Building (140 S. Dearborn Street; 1895); Gage Group (24 and 30 S.
Michigan Avenue; 1899-1900); the Chicago Building (7 S. Madison Street, 1904-05);
City Hall- County Building (121 N. LaSalle Street/1 18 N. Clark Street; 1905-08; 1909-
1 1); Oliver Building (159 N. Dearborn Street; 1907 with a 1920 addition); Brooks
Building (223 W. Jackson Boulevard; 1909-10); Three Arts Club (1300 N. Dearborn
Street; 1914), 333 N. Michigan Avenue Building (333 N. Michigan Avenue; 1928);
Chicago Board of Trade Building (141 W. Jackson Boulevard, 1930), and the Palmolive
Building (919 N. Michigan Avenue; 1927-29).
Images 28-29: Holabird & Root, the successor firm to Holabird & Roche, is also a signifi-
cant architectural firm in Chicago history, designing many Art Deco-style skyscrapers,
including (left to right) the Chicago Board of Trade Building from 1930 and the Palmolive
Building, built in 1927-29.
Architect: Andrew Rebori
The architect of the tower portion of the Roanoke
Building and Tower was Andrew Nicholas Rebori, one
of Chicago's most individualistic M^-century architects.
His work ranges from finely detailed Georgian Revival-
style homes and apartment buildings to starkly
ornamented Art Deco-style buildings such as Madonna
della Strada Chapel. Throughout his career, Rebori
strove to create graceful and distinctive buildings for
Rebori was born on the Lower East Side of New York.
His father Paul, an Italian-bom engineer, was killed in
an accident when young Andrew was three, and the
family was poverty stricken throughout the boy's
childhood. Andrew worked in several New York
architectural offices during his teens while attending
night school. He showed design promise and was
admitted to the architecture program at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Upon
graduation, he was awarded a scholarship to the Ecole
des Beaux- Arts in Paris and the American Academy in
Rome, spending one year of study abroad.
Upon his return to the United States in 1910, Rebori
worked briefly for architect Cass Gilbert in New York
before moving to Chicago to teach architecture at the
Armour Institute of Technology. In 1913, he received
his license. After a brief period working with local
Chicago architect Jarvis Hunt, Rebori opened his own
firm as a sole practitioner. One of his earliest
commissions was the Classical redesign of the
Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building in 1917.
At this time he also married Nellie Pendergast, niece of
Robert R. McCormick, longtime publisher of the
Chicago Tribune. In 1921, he joined with John
Wentworth and Albert Dewey. Two years later,
Leander McCormick joined the firm as a partner. These
associations provided access to Chicago's society
families and, in the 1920s, Rebori designed a number of
buildings for wealthy clients on Chicago's Near North
Side and North Shore suburbs.
Rebori is recognized in part for his readiness to
capitalize on the new 1 923 zoning code that allowed
towers based on cubic volume. At a time when many
architects were following the lead of Graham, Anderson,
Probst, and White in crafting modern interpretations of
Images 30-31 : (top to
bottom) Andrew Rebori,
the designer of the 1925
Roanoke Tower addi-
tion to the earlier Roa-
noke Building, is signifi-
cant as an innovative,
architect of the 1920s
and 1930s; Madonna
della Strada Chapel at
Loyola University of
Chicago (a designated
Chicago Landmark) is a
striking Art Deco-style
design by Rebori fomr
Images 32-35: (clockwise from top left) the Common Brick Model House from the 1933
Century of Progress Exposition (demolished); a double house on N. State Parkway, de-
signed in 1938 for Rebori's own use; the Fisher Studio Homes from1936 (a designated
Chicago Landmark); and the Art Deco-style LaSalle-Wacker Building, designed in collabo-
ration with Holabird & Root.
the classic style, Rebori worked to explore new and dramatic forms utilizing a series of
setbacks. In part, Rebori's designs represent the edict "Form Follows Finance," paving
a path for developers to create the largest possible buildings. To Rebori, the success of
any tall building was based on "the three essentials of suitable location, property
planning, and adequate financing."
The 1 920s was a prolific and productive time for Rebori. Many of his projects remained
unbuilt visions, such as his 1918 Victory Hall of the Nations designed for a site near
Michigan Avenue at Grant Park and a number of apartment buildings, hotels and offices
in the North Central District. One of his most dramatic designs was a fifty-six-story
building called Michigan Tower, designed in 1925 under the new zoning law but never
Of works built, among his most prominent 1920s designs are the 1923 Racquet Club, an
exclusive club at 1 963 North Dearborn Street, and chic cooperative apartment buildings
built in the second half of the decade at 2430 North Lake View Drive, 40-50 West
Schiller Street and 1325 North Astor Street. Other important works are the 1928-30
LaSalle-Wacker Building, an Art Deco-style office skyscraper designed in association
with Holabird and Root, the 1929-30 Elizabeth M. Cudahy Library for Loyola
University and the 1938 Madonna della Strada Chapel also at Loyola University (and
designated a Chicago Landmark in 2004). Especially distinctive was the 737 North
Michigan Avenue Building, built in 1928, a low-rise artists-studio and exclusive
boutique building commissioned by the then-owner of the Fine Arts Building.
Handsomely detailed in the Art Deco style, this limestone-clad building (demolished in
the early 1970s) was topped by a penthouse apartment complete with corner
astronomical observatory for one of the owner's three sons. The 1925 thirty-seven-story
addition to the Roanoke Building was Rebori's first office design to be built.
Economic troubles brought on by the Great Depression forced Rebori to disband his
architectural partnership and work solo during the 1930s. Individual projects of note
include the Streets of Paris concession and Common Brick Model House at the 1933-34
Century of Progress Exposition, the Fisher Studio Homes at 1209 North State Street
(designated a Chicago Landmark), and a striking, Art Moderne brick-and-glass block
pair of houses at 1328 North State Street that Rebori designed for himself and his son.
During World War II, Rebori worked on United States defense projects such as the
design and construction of the U.S. Army weapons manufacturing plant at McAlester,
Oklahoma. In the post-war years, he worked for DeLeuw Cather & Co., a large
engineering firm, designing such buildings as a Chicago & North Western Railroad
diesel shop located in Chicago's West Garfield Park neighborhood.
Form Follows Finance: Building Height Limits
and the Rise of Chicago Towers
The original construction of the Lumber Exchange Building, and its later transformation
into the Roanoke Building and Tower, illustrates how "form follows finance," how
business needs and the 1923 zoning law — that allowed building forms to be restricted by
total cubic volume rather than absolute height — brought about Chicago's historic
downtown skyline, pierced with thin skyscrapers rising from larger bases.
The city first regulated height in 1 893. A real estate boom that began around 1 888
combined with development of steel-frame construction pushed the standard level of
new office building to around 200 feet. This resulted in high vacancy rates that were
further increased by the financial panic of 1 893. In response, the city set a building
height limit of 130 feet.
The maximum height moved up and down several times in response to pressures from
the real estate industry. The combination of geography and capitalism forced a
concentration of growth. The business center was confined on three sides by water and
by a conglomerate of railroads to the south. The result was centralized retailing, office
buildings and a mass transit system that serviced the area. This concentration made the
skyscraper almost a creature of necessity. The Loop contained nearly sixty percent of
the total assessed land value of the 190 square mile city. This concentrated downtown
would be one of the most densely packed commercial cores on earth.
In response to burgeoning demand, in 1902 the city raised the height limit to 260 feet.
Immediately plans for eight new buildings were announced. The market cooled at the
end of the decade and the height was reduced to 200 feet in 191 1, resulting in a flurry of
construction to build to maximum heights before the height limit was reduced. The 200
foot height limit was in existence when Holabird & Roche designed the Lumber
Exchange Building and the building was constructed to the maximum allowable height.
In 1920, the city raised the height limit to 264 feet. At this time, existing rents were
increasing eighty to one-hundred percent. Again, with strong market demand, the
Lumber Exchange Building was expanded to the higher limit, with the addition of six
floors. "Tear down that old rat trap and build a sixteen story building" was the sales
pitch of real estate developers. New construction here included the Wrigley Building,
Chicago Temple, and the London Guaranty and Accident Building.
As Carol Willis writes in Form Follows Finance . "This situation fueled a boom in new
construction. New buildings rented quickly and were extremely profitable, attracting
more investors, and easy financing through banks, insurance companies, and mortgage
bond houses excited speculation The 1923 zoning ordinance responded to these
expansionary pressures by increasing cubic volume permitted in high rise buildings."
In 1923 the restriction was adjusted so that vertical limit above the sidewalk was 264
feet. Above that height, a tower could be erected on twenty- five percent of the lot. The
upper section could not, however, exceed one-sixth of the maximum cubic area of the
The new zoning code opened the door for imaginative designers and developers. The
McCormick estate, with architects Holabird and Roche joined by Andrew Rebori, saw
Images 36-37: (top) Chicago's skyline as seen from Lake Michigan at the Mouth of the Chi-
cago River, circa 1933. These skyscrapers were all constructed within a ten-year period
from 1919-1929. (bottom) Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan in 2006, the once-towering
Chicago Board of Trade building is now dwarfed by the modern skyscrapers.
and capitalized on the opportunity. Rather than build new, the McCormick plan was to
acquire the forty foot wide parcel at the east and incorporate it into the Roanoke
Building, and then base calculations for a tower on the entire complex. This strategy
allowed McCormick to add fifteen floors in a tower of approximately 90 feet by 40 feet.
This also established the precedent that towers could incorporate exiting floor-to-area
ratios and not just be limited to new construction. Another early example here is the
1924 Strauss Building by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White.
The result of the new zoning code was twenty-plus spires in the skyline by 1930, capped
by the 612-foot-high Board of Trade Building. There were also eight buildings over 500
feet in height and eleven over 400. These came largely in two forms. The first was the
Roanoke — essentially a block with tower. Another example is the 1929 Carbide &
Carbon Building. The second form integrated massing and tower. Examples here
include the Board of Trade Building (1929), Mather Tower (1928) and One North
LaSalle (1930). Collectively, these towers have had a fundamental role in defining the
Images 38-39: Two examples of the effect on Chicago skyscraper design that the 1923
zoning had. (left) Graham, Anderson, Probst & White's 1924 Strauss Building, the new
code allowed for a higher tower; (right) a bird's-eye view of the 1928 Mather Tower. Im-
age 40: (opposite page) 1930s Birds-eye-view of South LaSalle Street and the Roanoke
Building and tower.
The Roanoke Building and Tower was in the ownership and management of the Leland
McCormick Estate for 66 years. During this time, management strove to maintain the
property's strength in the marketplace with ongoing maintenance. Major work included
reconfiguration of tenant spaces as leases required. This includes upper floors as well as
ground-floor retail. In the late 1 950s, the owners embarked on a phased rehabilitation
that included modernization of the elevators, window replacements and air conditioning.
In 1961, the cornice was removed.
In 1981, LaSalle Partners acquired a partial interest in the building and took over
management. LaSalle then embarked on a $175,000 renovation of the storefront
exterior and the lobby, new design by Hammond, Beeby & Babka. The building is
listed as "orange" in the Chicago Historic Resource Survey.
Criteria for Designation
According to the Municipal Code of Chicago (Section 2-120-620 and -630), the
Commission on Chicago Landmarks has the authority to make a preliminary
recommendation of landmark designation for a building, structure, or district if the
Commission determines it meets two or more of the state "criteria for landmark
designation." as well as possesses a significant degree of its historic design integrity.
The following should be considered by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in
determining whether to recommend that the Roanoke Building and Tower be designated
as a Chicago Landmark.
Criterion 1: Critical Part of City's Heritage
Its value as an example of the architectural, cultural, economic, historic, social, or
other aspect of the heritage of the City of Chicago, State of Illinois, or the United States.
• The Roanoke Building and Tower exemplifies the history of LaSalle Street as the
historic business and financial center of Chicago and the Midwest.
• The Roanoke Tower itself was one of the first applications of the 1923 zoning law
that allowed soaring towers to pierce the Chicago skyline and helped establish
precedents for interpreting the new height regulations in the zoning ordinance.
Criterion 4: Important Architecture
Its exemplification of an architectural type or style distinguished by innovation, rarity,
uniqueness, or overall quality of design, detail, materials, or craftsmanship.
• The Roanoke Building and Tower is an outstanding and unusual example, in the
context of Chicago, of ornate terra-cotta decoration in a Portuguese Gothic style.
• The building is also an outstanding example of commercial high-rise design.
• The building is also significant for its fine use of materials and terra cotta
Criterion 5: Important Architect
Its identification as the work of an architect, designer, engineer, or builder whose
individual work is significant in the history or development of the City of Chicago, State
of Illinois, or the United States.
• The Roanoke Building and Tower is the work of Holabird and Roche, one of
Chicago's premier architectural firms, responsible for many significant Chicago
• The later Roanoke Tower itself was a collaborative effort between Holabird and
Roche and the young Chicago architect Andrew N. Rebori, one of the brightest and
most iconoclastic architects working in Chicago during the 1920s and 30s.
Images 41-48: The Roanoke Building has many Portuguese Gothic style terra cotta details,
including cherubim, foliated fret work, and grotesques.
The integrity of the proposed landmark must be preserved in light of its location, design,
setting, materials, workmanship, and ability to express its historic community,
architectural or aesthetic interest or value.
After the completion of additional floors on the original building and the construction of
the adjacent tower - all historically significant changes to the building - the Roanoke
Building and Tower has experienced changes common to buildings of its vintage and
program. On the exterior, storefronts have been modified on both street facades, a
typical change for commercial buildings of this vintage. Downtown office buildings
with ground floor retail are almost always modified over time as retail design trends and
demands change. The storefront level today appears as modified in 1984. In the 1950s,
the building was upgraded with central air condition, elevator upgrades and window
replacements. In 1961, the cornice was removed.
Today, the Roanoke Building and Tower possesses fine physical integrity through the
continued strength of its aspects, particularly location, design, setting, materials, feeling,
and association. Changes have been largely limited to the ground floor. Above the
storefront level, the building is essentially intact as built.
and Architectural Features
Whenever a building or district is under consideration for landmark designation, the
Commission on Chicago Landmarks is required to identify the "significant historical
and architectural features" of the property. This is done to enable both the owners and
the public to understand which elements are considered most important to preserve the
historic and architectural character of the proposed landmark.
Based on its evaluation of the Roanoke Building and Tower, the Commission staff
recommends that the significant historical and architectural features for the preservation
of this building be:
• All exterior elevations, including rooflines, of the building.
Images 49-54: The Roanoke Building & Tower is clad in terra cotta, combining Holabird &
Roche's Portuguese Gothic-style architectural details from 1915 and 1922 with Andrew
Rebori's 1925 Art Deco style architectural details on the tower.
Breugman, Robert. The Architects and the City: Holabird and Roche of Chicago, 1880-
1918. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Chappell, Sally A. Kitt. Architecture and Planning of Graham, Anderson, Probst and
White, 1912-1936: Transforming Tradition. Chicago: University of Chicago
"Chicago Board of Trade Building." 141 W. Jackson Blvd., Landmark Designation
Report. March 4, 2004.
Condit, Carl. American Building. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.
Condit, Carl. American Building Art: the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1961.
Cutler, Irving. Chicago: Metropolis of the Mid-Continent. 4 th ed. Carbondale:
Southern Illinois University Press, 2006.
Doyle, Deborah, ed. The Chicago Architectural Journal. Chicago: The Chicago
Architectural Club, 1984.
Fitch, James Marston. American Building: The Historical Forces that Shaped It. New
York: Schoken Books, 1973.
Hudson, Leslie. Chicago Skyscrapers in Vintage Postcards. Chicago: Arcadia
Jordy, William H. American Buildings and Their Architects: Progressive and Academic
Ideals at the Turn of the Century. Vol. 4. New York: Oxford University Press,
Knox, Janice A. and Belcher, Heather Olivia. Then and Now: Chicago 's Loop.
Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.
"Majestic Building and Theatre." 22 West Monroe Street, Landmark Designation
Report, April, 2004.
Miller, Donald L. City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America.
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.
"New York Life Building," 37-43 S. LaSalle Street, Landmark Designation Report,
November 14, 2002.
Saliga, Pauline A., ed. The Sky 's the Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers. New
York: Rizzoli, 1992.
Sinkevich, Alice, ed. AIA Guide to Chicago. 2nd ed. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2004.
Willis, Carol. Form Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and
Chicago. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1995.
CITY OF CHICAGO
Richard M. Daley, Mayor
Department of Planning and Development
Kathleen A. Nelson, First Deputy Commissioner
Brian Goeken, Deputy Commissioner for Landmarks
John M. Tess, President, Heritage Consulting Group: research, writing and layout
Terry Tatum, project coordinator: editing.
Breugman, Robert. The Architects and the City: Holabird and Roche of Chicago, 1880-
1918. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.: Image: 22, 24, 25
City of Chicago Planning and Development Office.: Image: 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 30, 31, 32,
Chicago Historical Society, LaSalle Street Collection: Image: 1, 12, 15, 16, 21
Chicago Historical Society, Chicago Daily News Collection.: Image: 17, 18, 19, 39
Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White Photo Archive http://www/gapw.com/ : Image: 38
Heritage Consulting Group Photograph, October 2006 and May 2007: Image: 2, 3, 4,
41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55
Holabird and Roche plans of the Roanoke Building: Image: 43
Hudson, Leslie A., Chicago Skyscrapers in Vintage Postcards. Chicago: Arcadia
Publishing, 2004.: Image: 23, 28, 29, 56
McCormick Harvester, http://www.vaes.vt.edu/steeles/mccormick/bio.html: Image: 7
National Trust for Historic Preservation: Image: 14
Old Chicago Vintage Postcards, http://patsabin.com/illinois/index.htm : Image: 13, 26,
Rebori's 1925 plans of the Roanoke Tower: Image: 20
Saliga, Pauline A., ed. The Sky 's the Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers. New
York: Rizzoli, 1992.: Image: 34, 40
Wikipedia, Chicago.: Image: 27
Wikipedia, Monadnock Building: Image 27
Image 55: 2007 photograph of the Roanoke Building & Tower from the
corner of LaSalle and Madison.
Image 56: Vintage post card of the Roanoke Building & Tower, featuring
Chicago's first aerial beacon that perched on the tower.
COMMISSON ON CHICAGO LANDMARKS
David Mosena, Chairmain
John W. Baird, Secretary
Christopher R. Reed
Edward I. Torrez
Ernest C. Wong
The Commission is staffed by the
Chicago Department of Planning and Development
33 N. LaSalle Street, Room 1600, Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 744-3200: (312) 744-2958 (TTY)
Printed August 2007